Do US wines sell in the UK?

Continuing the discussion from Hope for the UK’s American wine lovers on restaurant wine lists:

In my experience, they do not (I used to “re-import” California wines back to the US from Britain). But is that changing?

I’ve replied on your other thread. Or would you prefer the discussion here? I’m not doing both.

Not in the UK but I’m across the North Sea from Harters… hardly see American wine these days. There’s probably 1 or 2 but no more than that, and I don’t know anyone who buys it, me included. Most popular wines sold here in northern Europe are from Portugal, Spain, Chile, Argentina, France, S. Africa, Italy etc (not in any particular order, btw). French wines remain the most popular.

American beers tend to do a bit better but the prices are still astronomical so Europeans prefer to go to America to drink them. I myself rarely drink American beers and no American wine at all. Perhaps we aim to banish American wines from Europe since all the wine producing countries only drink their own stuff (availability, price, pride, political reasons etc), and those who don’t produce them drink mostly from countries I’ve listed above.

Jason - lots of South American wine in the UK especially from Chile. And I think that is the clue as to the reason not a lot of US wine makes it to the UK.

Certainly the Gallo wines made inroads some years ago, but in reality the price quality ratio wasn’t as good as some of the other major exporting companies like Australia, Chile etc. The ratio is driven by a number of factors, obviously currency pays a part, so Australian wine sales fell off when the Aussie dollar was so strong, but also the focus by the exporters plays an important part, so for Australia and Chile the UK was seen as a prime market e.g. Australia has a population of 24 million, Chile 18 million while the UK is 65 million. Compare that to the US market of 320 million and there is little need to export.

I recognise this is the lower quality end of the market but most wine consumption in the UK is at the £5 to £10 a bottle far lower than the quality market…so a high end producer sees a even smaller potential wine market…so maybe not worth the effort and hassle.

With no tradition of domestic wine production, the UK has always imposed its “plonk” – certainly for centuries to came in the form of claret which, after all, was a part of the English king’s realm for a very long time. But fast-forward to modern times, and Australia was the prime source, followed by Chile. Yes, that much is true, Phil, but I think it’s a mistake to look solely at population numbers.

In 2014 (the last year for which I have figures), these rankings are, IMHO, more relevant – the per capita wine consumption figures:

1st – Vatican, 54.26 litres per person
6th – France, 42.51L
7th – Portugal, 41.74L
13th – Italy, 33.33L
19th – Germany, 24.84L
20th – Australia, 24.53L
23rd – Argentina, 23.46L
30th – United Kingdom, 21.99L
31st – New Zealand, 21.49L
33rd – Spain, 21.26L
41st – Chile, 17.46L
62nd – United States, 10.25L

In 2014, the US population was 318,857,056. At 10.25L per person, that’s 3,268,284,824 litres. The US produced approx. 3,114,600,000 liters in 2013 (the 2014 wines wouldn’t have been released yet; for the purposes of this post, I’ll use 2013 production figures). Now, according to the US Department of Commerce, 31 percent of wine consumed in 2014 was imported, or 1,013,168,350 litres. That leaves 2,255,116,650 liters of domestic wine consumed and, thus, 859,483,350 liters (or 95,498,150 9-litre cases) in search of a home somewhere in the world.

Obviously this is all approximate, and presumes my math is correct. But 95.5 million cases does mean exports are essential . . .

Interesting insight from bumping together the data. There must be a US wine lake somewhere or its turned into ethanol for fuel…!

My internet search showed exports of 91 million cases in Q1/15 so that’s about 600 million short of the gap in your data. Looks like the UK does take the most with about 100 million a year, and Canada next. But as the UK imports about 1.1 billion litres US wine comes a long way behind the top five after France, Italy, Australia, Spain and New Zealand.

I was surprised Chile etc didn’t feature more strongly but suppose South American wines are imported from a number of places. I could have missed US wines in the UK because I was shopping at the wrong price point ~ £10 a bottle. I suspect most of the US exports are at the lower quality, higher volume end and a few top drops from Napa etc.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold